Friday, January 28, 2005

NCLB updates

A few schools and districts in Illinois are considering a lawsuit against the Ed. Dept. because of NCLB. It's hardly news because we've heard about hundreds of these possible lawsuits before and nothing has come of them. But this one is interesting because of the grounds on which they would sue: that NCLB conflicts with the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).

A lawyer for the Ottawa High School District has suggested a strategy in which about seven districts would join in a suit seeking to clarify apparent contradictions between the No Child Left Behind Act and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

The disabilities law calls for students with special needs to be taught under individualized plans, but No Child Left Behind requires them to take the same standardized tests as other students their age.

Putnam County is one of 201 Illinois districts that have failed for two consecutive years to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards, specifically because of the performance of special education students on tests for grades higher than their instructional levels, Struna said.

Because those test results are tied to federal Title I funding, failing to meet the progress standards for two more years could result in the district losing some $40,000 that currently aids another target group, Struna said.

"If we fail for two more years, we have to take money away from low-income kids and spend it on special ed kids," he said. "What kind of sense does that make?"

What strikes me here is the logic of going after the evident contradiction between NCLB and IDEA. How can you have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), which is required for all special ed students, and then require every one of them to be assessed in exactly the same manner?

And across the country, in Idaho, the right wingers are trying to undermine NCLB by crying -- wanna guess? -- local control. I dislike NCLB, but I hate this argument. What are you gonna secede if you don't get your way? Want to nullify the Act of Congress? Whatever. I thought that went out of style in the mid-19th century. This is a boring, old, and really stupid strategy. The right of the federal government to require states to meet requirements to receive federal money has been consistently upheld by the courts. If Idaho wants to give up several hundred million dollars in federal money then they can get out tomorrow. But they won't do that, everyone knows it anyway, so why not go after NCLB in a way that might work?

Hello? Idaho?


Blogger Joe Thomas said...

I don't mind the local control argument. It is valid inasmuch as the school district should be the governing body most influencing what is taught and how that teaching is assessed. The more both libertarians and liberals learn about NCLB, the more they both dislike it. This is a clear indication of what a poor law it is. It passed because of its pro-child title, and the false notion that schools are in crisis.

Public schools are, for the most part, doing quite well. There are definite problems of funding equity, and this is where the federal government should step in. Our inner-city and rural schools need help. They need more funding for buildings, curriculum and employees; they need to be able to attract and retain quality teachers d support staff; they need to have access to a wider variety of elective courses.

They need to have hope for a better future. A test will only highlight the inequities. It will do nothing to close the gap.

Poverty does not make people stupid, nor does wealth make one smart. Finances do, however, determine the opportunities you have to better yourself. This is where the federal government could intervene and do a great service.

I was raised on a ranch. You don't fatten a hog by weighing it. Neither do we better educate or kids by narrowing our focus to simply teaching reading, writing and math.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Michael L Umphrey said...

Federalism is neither stupid nor as "either/or" as you accuse the local control people to be.

In rural states like Idaho the stupidity of trying to implement "fixes" designed by urban designers who can't imagine the places they would govern becomes clear.

Some decisions belong to individual students. Some belong to teachers. Some belong to local school boards. Some belong to state governments. Some belong to the feds. NCLB makes some decisions that ought to be made at other levels. Saying so is not stupid.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Jenny D. said...

Brink: Think harder about this. Why did Robert F. Kennedy support a testing/standards regime like NCLB back in 1965? Why do people in Utah and Idaho hate NCLB? Maybe it's a really progressive law. It's not perfect, needs tinkering. Also here's a thought: why are you so down on the idea that kids with disabilities can succeed at the same level as non-disabled kids? Sure it's hard...but do you think that these educators would really be trying this hard without NCLB? If so, show me how you know.

5:01 AM  
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4:45 AM  

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